Jimmy Anderson is without doubt greatest fast bowler ever after reaching 600 Test wickets
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A little bit of away movement off the pitch, some extra bounce and Azhar Ali could only fend the ball to the waiting hands of skipper Joe Root at slip.
And he did not dare drop this one.
It was 4.36pm and 38-year-old Jimmy Anderson had done it.
After waiting for more than five hours for the rain to stop and the ground to be fit to play, it took Anderson just 14 balls to claim the 600th Test wicket of his career.
He held his arm aloft and then joined Root for a double-fist bump before giving social distancing the heave-ho as they embraced for a warm hug.
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His family, his friends and thousands of England supporters would normally have been at the Ageas Bowl cheering him on, but this time it really was one man and his dog – Winston, the groundsman’s red setter, who has his own accreditation.
The game might have been played behind closed doors, but there was plenty of applause and appreciation from those lucky enough to be inside the ground – from team-mates and backroom staff to ground staff, match operations and the media.
The extended applause rang around the ground as Anderson raised the ball in acknowledgement of a remarkable achievement.
At the end, Anderson led England’s Test team from the field for the last time in 2020– as the undisputed king of bowlers in a summer of two series wins.
This third Test was drawn, thanks to the weather, but there was enough time for the champagne moment.
England's Joe Root (L) takes the catch as Anderson makes history
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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It had not been easy for Anderson to move from 598 to 600 with the weather and the Pakistani batsmen doing their best to deny him the moment until 2021. But, in a metaphor for his entire career, he found a way to succeed.
He kept going, he kept plugging away and, when his team-mates were dropping catches, he simply carried on creating more chances.
When Root held the catch to spark the celebrations, there would have been more than a hint of relief that this one had stuck after the delays caused by four previous drops.
It soon became apparent that of the four men to have reached this astonishing mark, Anderson was the second fastest to get there, taking 33,717 balls to do so… just six balls, one solitary over, more than Muttiah Muralitharan took. Anderson might have been denied that record, but, as the only pace bowler to have got there, he is out on his own already.
It is why his former skipper and best mate Sir Alastair Cook calls him a genius.
“Wow, what an amazing achievement,” said Cook.
Anderson sits on the sidelines after his heroics on Tuesday
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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“Sport is such a funny thing. Three weeks ago, people were saying that Jimmy Anderson was looking old and then he suddenly pulled out a five-for and looks as good as ever. The bloke is a genius.”
But it has taken more than just the ability to bowl decent balls to reach this point. It has taken more than the incredible skill that he has been blessed with and added to over time.
To have played 156 Test matches over the past 17 years has taken mind-boggling amounts of hard work, it has taken incredible sacrifice and it has required an almost sadistic ability to cope with pain.
Bloodied, bruised and broken at times, he has shown the character to keep going and keep thriving when others would have stopped long ago.
Anderson is part of a dying breed. He loves the game to his core and, even though he made his breakthrough as a white-ball star, he has worked hardest on the red-ball skills that are the hardest to master.
He is an artist, a craftsman, an expert in his field and, as he is still putting on a show, catch him while you can.